Women Who Rock: Amanda F’in Palmer

Would it really come as a big shock to you that someone who uses “F**king” as a middle name would end up causing a whole lot of controversy in the music world? Probably not. And that’s pretty much what Amanda F**king Palmer (not her legal name) did last year when she used Kickstarter to raise money for her latest album, Theatre is Evil, and its accompanying art book and tour. Actually, it’s not how she raised the money that became an issue; it’s what she did with it. Raising ten times her goal of $100,000 goal and rounding up a record-breaking $1.2 million, AFP then recruited musicians on each tour stop to join her and the Grand Theft Orchestra on stage, promising to “feed you beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch, and thank you mightily” in lieu of cold hard cash. Obviously, this didn’t sit well with some musicians, their fans, and even some of Amanda’s fans who criticized AFP for not spreading the wealth. (Note: Musicians are no strangers to working for free and some would even argue that they lose money on gigs, so this is one of those things where it’s more about the principle than the paycheck.)

Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman - Photo by Kyle Cassidy
Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman – Photo by Kyle Cassidy

Things got pretty ugly for a while there. The New York Times posted an article detailing some of the responses and criticism aimed at AFP. Musician Steve Albini called her an idiot (and then claimed that he didn’t). A Seattle-based musicians’ union attempted to publicly shame her into paying those who performed on tour with her. And Amanda, after explaining that the Kickstarter funding covered costs for production and promotion of the album and the tour, basically said that as long as everyone is happy, what’s the big deal?

So just how did Amanda Fucking Palmer raise over $1 million in crowdsourced funds  in the first place? By being awesome, obviously. Remember that song “Coin-Operated Boy” from about  eight years ago, the one with the plinky child’s piano sounds and the sort of circus-y video? (See video below.) That was by The Dresden Dolls, a self-described “cabaret punk” duo consisting of Amanda and Brian Viglione. She’s also half of another theatrical “dark cabaret” music duo, Evelyn Evelyn, with Jason Webley. Oh, and she’s married to Neil Gaiman, which makes her half of yet another extremely cool partnership that could easily threaten to dethrone Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter as World’s Quirkiest (In a Totally Cool Way) Couple. Plus she’s just extremely creative and talented and is more of a musical performing artist than just a musician.

I have to confess, I’ve only listened to Theatre is Evil in its entirety once, but I’ve heard enough of it to know that it’s worth downloading. Trying to define it with the usual genre labels is like trying to staple pudding to a brick wall. There’s a bit of punk, some melodic ballads, a sprinkling of pop and rock, all melding together into an aural feast. Amanda Palmer is one of those artists who…well, you either get her or your don’t. And the only way to find out is to give her a try. The album can be purchased on her website,, at a “pay what you want” price ranging from $1 to $20. Check it out now, thank me later.

By April

If I had a dollar for every time I got distracted, I wish I had some ice cream.

8 replies on “Women Who Rock: Amanda F’in Palmer”

I love her music but she’s kinda got the super privileged white abled feminist thing going on. Like, I was just starting to deal with the ableism stuff, when she goes and mocks people who pointed out her ableism (and who made suggestions on how to amend wrongs via IDK, featuring artists with disabilities as opening and co acts for EE tours???) in the intro to her new video for Do It With a Rock Star? It sucks, because she’s a great artist with some great ideas, but she’s also unapologeticly privileged and mocks the ways she perpetuates, usually unintentionally, the oppression of others. Also, the Whole Ironically supporting the KKK thing was not cool. at all. Even as a joke- she just mocked people who asked her to acknowledge it was fucked.

I met her at Comic Con a few years back and, honestly, did not like her at all. Then there was the stuff mentioned below (especially the responses from her on the whole EE thing) that sort of cemented her in my ‘not a fan’ room. It’s certainly not a question of not ‘getting’ her, as I have worked with and hung out with hundreds of other musicians and artists in my lifetime. I ‘get’ things just fine.

The Kickstarter thing really seals it for me, though. I think she can do whatever she wants with her money, and she has no obligation to give it to anyone else if she raised it under honest circumstances. But pretending to be a poor, struggling artist (as she does all the time) when she has never been that at all is very demeaning to people that truly are.

I’d not heard any of her music (solo or Dresden Dolls) before I heard about her – heard how she thought it was acceptable to fake a suicide to provoke some response from a lover, or that she thought it was high art to do a fake rape on stage (Margaret Cho gets side-eye over that as well), or the already mentioned ableism/ickiness of Evelyn/Evelyn.

I’d love to be able to support a fierce woman, but with receipts like that I wouldn’t even steal her music.

I have a like/dislike of Amanda Palmer. I really enjoy the quirkiness of the Dresden Dolls and Palmer certainly stands up for herself and doesn’t let public opinion push her around so my hat’s off to her in that regard. In fact, if that’s all I knew of Palmer, I would absolutely love her. However, I have some reservations about Evelyn Evelyn and that’s ended up coloring my entire view of her as an artist. The music of Evelyn Evelyn itself is great, but the concept of conjoined twins seems gimmicky and insensitive, not to mention building in child pornography (possibly even rape?) into the backstory. So I wind up feeling kinda meh about her as a whole. :S I want to like her more, especially since she’s such a talented artist. :(

my problem is more with the fact that she mocked and belittled the people who pointed out the not so cool elements of the whole EE act- feminists with disabilies and sexual abuse survivors were the ones that went and said look we like you but this is fucked up. It wasn’t priv’d hipsters. and she mocked them, and continues to mock them.

I’ve always enjoyed and respected Amanda Palmer as a musician, performer and general loud mouth. She’s pretty blunt and open about everything she does – even if you don’t agree with it (as a lot of people don’t regarding the not-paying musicians thing) she will try to answer it straight on.

I actually haven’t got into new album too much (yet) but her first solo album is probably a desert island cd for me. The first Dresden Dolls cd was a huge deal for me. A friend of mine got me in to see a show of theirs promoting their first album and I was way too shy to get an autograph from (the flusteringly hot) Brian Viglione so I settled for having her to sign their first cd for me. She was super nice to my intensely shy younger self and won a fan of me. Been following her ever since.

When she started dating and then married Neil Gaimen it was like my geek worlds collided. I still can’t believe that happened.

Nice to see her mentioned on PMag.

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